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Originally published October 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 25, 2007 at 1:42 PM

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For Bellevue teenagers, film is the art of ambition

Watching the sleek cars and covert operations of "James Bond" movies left many adolescent boys wishing they could be like Agent 007. But those action films...

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Film screening

What: A black-tie-requested screening of "The Lincoln Project," an original film by three Bellevue high-school students.

Where: Lincoln Square Cinemas, 700 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $10, available by presale or at the door. Contact Jeff Prahl at jeffprahl@gmail.com or visit www.bfbsite.com/tlpmovie for information.

Watching the sleek cars and covert operations of "James Bond" movies left many adolescent boys wishing they could be like Agent 007.

But those action films inspired something else for three Bellevue teenagers: movie-making.

Now, Jeff Prahl, 18; Zach Wittman, 17; and Devin Greger, 16, will debut their nearly two-hour-long feature film this weekend at the Lincoln Square Cinemas in downtown Bellevue. They wrote, produced and directed the film all on their own.

The three have been making movies together since they were kids in their Vuecrest neighborhood. It started when Prahl's family bought a camcorder when he was 13. Inspired by "James Bond," the boys concocted their own fake blood and filmed an hourlong action movie in seven months.

"You're watching a movie and you think, 'how cool would that be to make that the way you want and do it on your own,' " Prahl said. This weekend's screening of "The Lincoln Project" will be the young filmmakers' third feature project and second premiere screening; the first was in December 2005 at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue.

Prahl, who is home-schooled and does Running Start at Bellevue Community College, founded the group's independent-film-production company, BFB Productions, last year.

His mother, a self-employed seamstress, showed him how to apply for a sole proprietorship, but the teenagers have taken full responsibility for their business, including financing, without parental help, she said.

"I said to him 'if you want to be a self-made man, get the money yourself; don't have somebody else give it to you,' " said Barbara Prahl. "So far, they have a record of doing it themselves."

They have funded their filmmaking through summer jobs and film projects that neighbors or mentors have referred them to, including helping out on in-house films for Microsoft and AT&T.

Producing "The Lincoln Project" cost about $4,000, Prahl said; renting Lincoln Square Cinemas' largest theater during its peak business hours was an additional $2,700.

They decided to rent the theater because "that's how they would do it in the big leagues," said Wittman, a senior at Seattle Preparatory School.

Although the teens expect to come close to selling out the 438-seat theater at an admission price of $10, revenue from the screening will not cover all costs.

"It's not that big of a deal to us because we all love doing it anyway," Wittman said.

The movie, filmed in Eastern and Western Washington, stars Prahl and Greger, a junior at Bellevue High School, as two criminals on a mission to recover government documents valued at more than $200 million. Its cast of 50 high-school and college students was found by word-of-mouth and an audition at Wittman's home.

The majority of filming was done during the summer of 2006 to avoid school conflicts.

The three young filmmakers handle all lighting, cinematography and sound, including an original score written by Prahl and Wittman. None have formal training in video production, although Prahl took a film class at BCC last spring.

Since his parents' divorce, Prahl has relied on male mentors outside the home throughout his adolescence, his mother said.

Jessep Bangham, a Microsoft team member who also works on local multimedia projects, helped him create a short film for his Boy Scout troop six years ago.

Then a training-department manager at a local computer store, Bangham taught Prahl the basics of video software.

"His development is unexpected; it's far more than I think even he himself could have expected," Bangham said.

Although Prahl said he pictured himself making films ever since the teens' first project, none of them thought the hobby would escalate to this point.

"It is cool and we do really love to do it," he said.

As they head in different directions next year, the trio is uncertain about their filmmaking future.

Prahl is considering colleges with film programs, such as UCLA and Central Washington University, while Wittman is interested in music and engineering and Greger is considering joining the military after graduation.

Meghan Peters: 206-464-8305 or mpeters@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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